Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1446



Introduction

Update: 8/27/04 - The charts have all been revised. Thanks go out to all the people that posted corrections in the comments section as well as sending them via email. In addition to the corrections, some further information and commentary has been added to the pages. For anyone that actually comes back to this article for reference information, enjoy the changes!

Foreword by Kristopher Kubicki:
From time to time we stumble upon some truly gifted and patient people here at AnandTech. Some weeks ago I wrote a CPU codename cheatsheet as just something to do in an airport terminal to kill time. Very soon after, an extremely diligent Jarred Walton showed me his rendition of the CPU family tree that he was keeping just for fun!? Knowing I was bested, I offered Jarred a chance at writing a pilot for AT, and here it is! Please enjoy the second, extremely thorough CPU Cheatsheet 2.0.


But loud! what lurks in yonder chassis, hot?
A CPU, my programs it will run!
O Pentium, Pentium! wherefore art thou Pentium?
Obscure thy benchmarks and refuse thy name.
What's in a name? that which we call a chip
By any other name would run as fast.

My sincere apologies to Shakespeare, but that mangled version of Romeo and Juliet is an apt description of the world of computer processors. Once upon a time, we dealt with part numbers and megahertz. Larger numbers meant you had a faster computer. 80286 was faster than 8088 and 8086, and the 80386 was faster still, with the 80486 being the king of performance. Life was simple, and life was good. But that is the distant past; welcome to the present.

Where once we had a relatively small number of processor parts to choose from, we are now inundated with product names, model numbers, code names, and features. Keeping track of what each one means is becoming a rather daunting task. Sure, you can always try Googling the information, but sometimes you'll get conflicting information, or unrelated web sites, or only small tidbits of what you're trying to find out. So, why not put together a clear, concise document that contains all of the relevant information? Easier said than done; however, that is exactly what is attempted in this article.

In order to keep things even remotely concise, the cutoff line has been arbitrarily set to the Pentium II and later Intel processors, and the Athlon and later AMD processors. Anything before that might be interesting for those looking at the history of processors, but for all practical purposes, CPUs that old are no longer worth using. Also absent will be figures for power draw and heat dissipation, mainly because I'm not overly concerned with those values, not to mention that AMD and Intel have very different ways of reporting this information. Besides, Intel and AMD design and test their CPUs with a variety of heatsinks, motherboards, and other components to ensure that everything runs properly, so if you use the proper components, you should be fine.

So what will be included? For this first installment, details on clock frequencies, bus speeds, cache sizes, transistor counts, code names, and a few other items has been compiled. The use of model numbers with processors is also something people will likely have trouble keeping straight, so the details of processors for all Athlon XP and later AMD chips and Pentium 4 and later Intel chips will follow. The code names and features will be presented first, with individual processor specifics listed on the later pages. As a whole, it should be a useful quick reference - or cheat sheet, if you prefer - for anyone trying to find details on a modern x86 processor.

With that said, on to the AMD processors. Why AMD first? Because someone has to be first, and AMD comes before Intel in the alphabet.



AMD Cheat Sheet

AMD Processors
Argon (K7)AthlonSlot A500-700512K22 + cache250184100 
Pluto (K75)AthlonSlot A550-850512K22 + cache180102100 
Orion (K75)AthlonSlot A900-1000512K22 + cache180102100 
SpitfireDuron462600-95064K25180100100 
MorganDuron462900-130064K25.2180106100 
ThunderbirdAthlon "B"462650-1400256K37180117100 
ThunderbirdAthlon "C"4621000-1400256K37180117133 
PalominoAthlon XP/M462850-1733256K37.5180129100/133 
PalominoAthlon MP4621000-1733256K37.5180129100/1331-2
Thoroughbred AAthlon XP4621467-1833?256K37.513080133 
Thoroughbred BAthlon XP/M4621200-2133256K37.513084133 
Thoroughbred BAthlon XP4622083-2250256K37.513084166 
Thoroughbred BAthlon MP4621667-2133256K37.5130841331-2
BartonAthlon XP/M4621467-2133512K54.3130101133 
BartonAthlon XP4621833-2167512K54.3130101166 
BartonAthlon XP4622100-2200512K54.3130101200 
BartonAthlon MP4622133512K54.31301011661-2
ApplebredDuron4621400-180064K25.2*13084*133 
ThortonAthlon XP4621667-2067256K37.5*130101*133 
Thoroughbred BSempron4621500-2000+256K37.513084166 
SledgehammerAthlon FX9402200-???1024K105.9130 SOI193200Y 
SledgehammerOpteron9401400-24001024K105.9130 SOI193200Y1-8
SledgehammerAthlon FX9392400-???1024K105.9130 SOI193200Y 
ClawhammerAthlon 647541800-2200(?)512K105.9130 SOI193200Y 
ClawhammerAthlon 647542000-2400(?)1024K105.9130 SOI193200Y 
NewcastleAthlon 647541800-2600(?)512K68.5130 SOI144200Y 
NewcastleAthlon 649392200-2600(?)512K68.5130 SOI144200Y 
San DiegoAthlon FX9392600-???1024K105.9(?)90 SOI114(?)200Y 
ParisSempron7541800-???256K~50(?)130 SOI118200N 
VenusOpteron 1xx94090 SOI200?Y 
TroyOpteron 2xx94090 SOI200?Y1-2
AthensOpteron 8xx94090 SOI200?Y1-8
OdessaAthlon 64 M?754?512K130 SOI200?Y 
WinchesterAthlon 64939512K68.5(?)90 SOI83(?)200Y 
DublinAthlon XP-M46237.5130 SOI128200?N 
NewarkAthlon 64-M LP754?90 SOI200?Y 
LancasterAthlon 64 M754?90 SOI200?Y 
GeorgetownAthlon XP M462/754?90 SOI200?N? 
SonoraAthlon XP-M LP462/754?90 SOI200?N? 
DenmarkOpteron 1xx94090 SOI200?Y 
ItalyOpteron 2xx94090 SOI200?Y1-2
EgyptOpteron 8xx94090 SOI200?Y1-8
ToledoDual Core FX93990 SOI200?Y2C
PalermoSempron (?)939 (?)256K?~50(?)90 SOI62(?)200N? 
OakvilleAthlon 64 Mobile754?512K?90 SOI200?Y 
VictoriaSempron (?)754 (?) 256K?~50(?)90 SOI62(?)200N? 
* Die Size and/or transistor count is based off a larger CPU core with a portion of the die disabled.
** Various steppings/sources listed different die sizes.
*** The bus speed all Athons/Durons is double-pumped, but the CPU multiplier is based off the listed speed.

A few notes to clarify the information. The stated die sizes and transistor counts for the Applebred and Thorton reflect the fact that these processors are Thoroughbred and Barton cores, respectively, with half of the L2 cache disabled, which is why they have a single asterisk next to them. There have been reports of hacking the Thorton processors and turning them into full Barton CPUs, but considering the insignificant cost difference these days, it's probably not worth worrying about. AMD plans on discontinuing the Barton soon anyway, and will use the old Thoroughbred core for the Socket A Sempron chips.

Transistor counts on Paris, Victoria, and Palermo are likely off, but it remains to be seen how AMD actually configures these chips. Early Athlon 64 512K cache chips for socket 754 were Clawhammer cores with half the cache disabled, but the newer models (i.e. 3200+ at 2.2 GHz with 512K, 3400+ 2.4 GHz 512K, and 3700+ 2.6 GHz with 512K) appear to be actual Newcastle cores. The same could very well happen with the Paris cores, where initial shipments are "downgraded" Newcastle cores, and later versions may physically remove the ~18.7 million transistors used in the L2 cache. Regardless, values on these cores should be taken with a grain of salt.

Unreleased processors will likely change from these current estimates, and question marks indicate best guess data at present. If you notice any errors or if you have additional information on forthcoming processors, let us know in the comments section or email.

Take note of the Toledo, Denmark, Italy, and Egypt cores; the 2C next to it stands for dual core. All four models use the same basic core and should come out around the same time in early 2005. Whether they launch as planned remains to be seen, and precise details about the internal layout are not yet clear - recent news suggests that each core will have its own L2 cache. Dual core is best described as SMP on a single chip, and while on the subject of SMP, please note that all of the Athlon XP processors could support multi-processor configurations unofficially. 2-way SMP was almost a certainty, but none of the CPUs were verified to function in such a configuration by AMD. While it would not be prudent to take such a risk as a business, quite a few enthusiasts saved themselves a lot of money by putting XP chips into SMP motherboards instead of spending the extra money on MP chips.

The basic core of the Athlon, from the Pluto all the way through the latest Newcastle and Paris processors, changed very little since its inception. It has a 10 stage integer pipeline and 15 stage floating point pipeline, with three identical Arithmetic/Logic Units (ALUs), Address Generation Units (AGUs), and Floating Point Units (FPUs). The FPUs also handle the MMX, 3DNow!/+, and SSE/SSE2 support. Opteron increased the length to 12/17 stages, in addition to bringing 64-bit support. Future versions of the Athlon 64 will likely increase the length of the pipeline past the current 12/17 stages in order to increase clock speeds, but I doubt that AMD will ever show the hubris of Intel by creating a 31 stage pipeline - at least, not on any iteration of the Athlon architecture. This is especially a problem with the increasing power leakage of high clockspeeds and increasingly small process technology. Until those issues are resolved, I think it's safe to say that pipeline lengths will stay in the 10 to 15 stages (for integers) range with AMD.

Update: One reader was good enough to send a link to AMD's site where they actually list the Opteron as being a 12/17 design. (Thanks Tom!) Finding any good details on the Intel and AMD sites can be a major chore, most likely due to the level of competition between the companies as well as their size. There's a rule somewhere that the larger a company gets, the less informative and helpful their web site becomes! For those that want the link, here's the Opteron information. That means that all Athlon 64 designs are also 12/17, of course. The Denmark, Italy, and Egypt CPUs are also dual core, it appears, and their entries have been updated to reflect this. (The old roadmap didn't include that information.)



Intel Cheat Sheet

Intel IA32/EM64T Processors
CovingtonCelSlot 1266/3008K+8K7.535011866 
MendocinoCel ("A")Slot 1266-43316K+16K128K19250154661-2
MendocinoCel ("A")370233-53316K+16K128K19250154661-2
Coppermine-128Cel ("A")370533-76616K+16K128K28*18010666 
Coppermine-128Cel ("A")370800-110016K+16K128K28*180106100 
KlamathP IISlot 1233-33316K+16K512K7.5+37.2350203+L2661-2
DeschutesP IISlot 1266-33316K+16K512K7.5+37.2250118+L2661-2
DeschutesP IISlot 1350-45016K+16K512K7.5+37.2250118+L21001-2
DeschutesP II XeonSlot 2400-45016K+16K512K7.5+37.2250118+L21001-2
DeschutesP II XeonSlot 2400-45016K+16K1M7.5+74.4250118+L21001-2
DeschutesP II XeonSlot 245016K+16K2M7.5+148.8250118+L21001-2
KatmaiP IIISlot 1450-60016K+16K512K9.5+37.2250131+L21001-2
KatmaiP III BSlot 1533-60016K+16K512K9.5+37.2250131+L21331-2
TannerP III XeonSlot 2500, 55016K+16K512K9.5+37.2250128+L21001-8
TannerP III XeonSlot 2500, 55016K+16K1M9.5+74.4250128+L21001-8
TannerP III XeonSlot 2500, 55016K+16K2M9.5+148.8250128+L21001-8
Cascades**P III XeonSlot 2600-100016K+16K256K28.1180106-901331-2
CascadesP III XeonSlot 270016K+16K1M180210?1001-4
CascadesP III XeonSlot 2700, 90016K+16K2M1803851001-4
Coppermine**P IIISlot 1550-100016K+16K256K28.1180106-901001-2
Coppermine**P III BSlot 1533-100016K+16K256K28.1180106-901331-2
Coppermine**P III E370500-110016K+16K256K28.1180106-901001-2
Coppermine**P III EB370533-113316K+16K256K28.1180106-901331-2
TualatinCel ("A")3701000-140016K+16K256K28.113080100 
TualatinP III3701000-133316K+16K256K28.1130801331-2
TualatinP III S3701133-140016K+16K512K45.9130110?1331-2
WillametteCel-1284781700-180012Ku+8K128K36.5180217*100 
WillametteP 44231300-200012Ku+8K256K42180217100 
WillametteP 44781500-240012Ku+8K256K42180217100 
FosterXeon DP6031400-200012Ku+8K256K421802171001-2
FosterXeon MP6031400, 150012Ku+8K256K512K42+37?1801001-4
FosterXeon MP603160012Ku+8K256K1M42+74?1801001-4
NorthwoodCel4781400-280012Ku+8K128K36.5130131?100 
NorthwoodMob. Cel.4781400-280012Ku+8K256K130100 
Northwood**P 44781800-260012Ku+8K512K55130146-131100 
Northwood**P 4 "B"4782267-280012Ku+8K512K55130146-131133 
Northwood**P 4 HTT478306712Ku+8K512K55130146-131133 
Northwood**P 4 "C"4782400-340012Ku+8K512K55130146-131200 
Gallatin**P 4 EE4783200-340012Ku+8K512K2M55+123130231-237?200 
PrestoniaXeon DP6031600-300012Ku+8K512K551301001-2
PrestoniaXeon DP6042000-306712Ku+8K512K551301331-2
PrestoniaXeon DP6043067-320012Ku+8K512K1M55+611301331-2
GallatinXeon MP6031500-280012Ku+8K512K1M55+611301001-4
Gallatin**Xeon MP6032000-270012Ku+8K512K2M55+123130231-237?1001-4
GallatinXeon MP603300012Ku+8K512K4M55+246?1301001-4
Prescott 256?Cel D478/7752400-320012Ku+16K256K90133 
PrescottP 4 "A"4782400-280012Ku+16K1M12590112133 
PrescottP 4 "E"4782800-340012Ku+16K1M12590112200 
PrescottP 4 "E"T/7752800-???12Ku+16K1M12590112200 
PrescottP 4 "E"T/775???-???12Ku+16K2M90200/266 
NoconaXeonT/775?2800-3600+12Ku+16K1M12590112?2001-2
Irindale2M90200? 
BaniasCel M478M1300-150032K+32K512K130100 
BaniasP M478M900-180032K+32K1M130100 
DothanCel M478M900-150032K+32K1M90100/133 
DothanP M478M1000-240032K+32K2M90100/133 
Potomac65 
Smithfield2C
JonahP M?65?2C
Tulsa 
Merom 
Conroe 
Gilo 
Whitefield           

Intel IA64 Processors
Merced****Itanium1PAC-418733-80016K+16K96K2-4M25+30018030066512
McKinley+Itanium2PAC-611900-100016K+16K256K1.5-3M221180421100512
DeerfieldItanium2PAC-6111000, 1500?16K+16K256K1.5M?130266?100512
Madison++Itanium2PAC-6111300-1500?16K+16K256K2-6M477130374100512
FanwoodItanium2PAC-6111500-1667?16K+16K256K9M130100/166512
MontecitoItanium2?24M?1700?902C?
MillingtonItanium2? 
DimonaItanium2?2C
MontvaleItanium2? 
TukwilaItanium2?16C?
FoxtonItanium2? 
PellstonItanium2?          
* Die Size and/or transistor count is based off a larger CPU core with a portion of the die disabled.
** Various steppings/sources listed different die sizes.
*** The bus speed on the P4, PM, CM, and Itanium is quad-pumped, but the CPU multiplier is based off the listed speed.
**** Figures for Merced based off of 4M L3 cache version.
+ Figures for McKinley based off 3M L3 cache version.
++ Figures for Madison based off 6M L3 cache version.
+++ All Itaniums are said to be 512-way SMP capable, but this is more a factor of the motherboard and system design than the chip itself (I think).

Notes on the Intel side of things are similar to the AMD side. There are again a couple cores that have an asterisk, indicating that the core was a "downgraded" version of a faster core, mostly with the Celeron processors. The double-asterisks are for chips that had varying die sizes in the various steppings. This probably occurs to a small degree in most chips, but in the Cascades, Coppermine, and Northwood cores, the changes were well documented and rather drastic. Thoroughbred A to B in AMD was only a 4 mm2 die size increase, while Coppermine fluctuated between 106 mm2 to 90 mm2, and Northwood went from 146 mm2 to 131 mm2. My guess is that it was due in part to hand-optimizing the layouts of the cores, but if anyone has precise details on the hows and whys of the decreases, I would like to hear them.

In order to make the charts fit nicely within the space constraints, x86-64 was removed from the column lists. As of now, the only Intel CPUs that are known to include x86-64 support are the Nocona and Potomac cores. There will almost certainly be more in the future. The L1 cache of the P4 chips includes a trace cache, which stores decoded micro-ops, abbreviated uops. In the chart above, the trace cache corresponds to the L1 instruction cache found in typical CPUs, and 12Ku+16K means the cache has the ability to store 12,000 micro-ops as well as a standard 16KB of L1 data cache.

You can see that Intel also has 2C (dual core) designs in their roadmap, as well as a highly speculative 16C (sixteen core!) Itanium. Whether or not Tukwila will ever see the light of day is anyone's guess - it could simply be a mythical design that some hardware sites fantasize about. Transistor count on such a chips would likely be several BILLION transistors. (On a different note, I was recently up in Tukwila, WA purchasing a mountain bike from a pawn shop. They didn't have any processors for sale, unfortunately.)

In contrast to AMD, Intel has had several major architecture revisions during the past seven or so years. AMD pretty much stuck with the K7/Athlon core for all their processors, which was admittedly a very good design. Intel, with its deeper pockets, attacked on numerous fronts. First was the Pentium III line, which more or less ended in a draw with their rival AMD. Prompted by marketing - because "clockspeed sells" - Intel came up with a radical new architecture dubbed NetBurst, the basis of the Pentium 4. NetBurst was a success on the desktop, but it really was too power hungry for laptops, so Intel decided to pursue a completely separate architecture for its mobile processors, which is now also penetrating Blade and other low voltage markets. Finally, shortly after the launch of the Athlon 64, Intel countered with their reworked NetBurst architecture and the Prescott line of processors. Add to this the long-awaited launch of IA-64 (roughly ten years in the making!) which was a completely new architecture that was even more radical than NetBurst. Intel has been busy, needless to say.

For their desktop chips, SMP was available both officially and unnofficially. The Celeron chips were not intended for SMP use and were never validated (by Intel) to work in such configurations. However, enterprising motherboard makers like Abit with their BP6 board allowed users to run early Celerons in dual CPU configurations. Intel put a stop to that with Coppermine-128 and Tualatin-256 (if you can call it that) Celerons. The P3 Xeon chips were all "multi-processor" configurations, capable of up to 8-way SMP. Such support was more dependent on the motherboard and chipset, though, so most setups topped out at 4-way SMP. Intel had a chipset that linked two 4-way buses together for their 8-way configuration, while ServerWorks created a chipset and motherboard that supported 8-way directly. In theory, they could have even followed Intel's example and linked two buses together to have a 16-way SMP setup, although at that point motherboard size becomes a difficult issue.

Itanium and SMP is a special case that needs further clarification. SMP is not always listed in the above chart, but all Itaniums are said to be capable of 512-way SMP. This is really more of a factor of the motherboard(s) and system design than the chip itself. For example, special high-end clustered systems have been built using AMD Athlon MP and Opteron CPUs as well as Xeon chips that have as many as 128 chips in a "single" system. Itanium is a similar case with SMP. Motherboards with up to eight sockets exist for Itanium, but 512-way SMP requires special hardware beyond the motherboard. (Please feel free to correct me if that's wrong, but I'm pretty sure this is the case. I can't imagine what a motherboard for 512 Itaniums would even look like if it were to exist - 8x8 feet in size?)

Update: A couple people pointed out issues with the naming of the Celeron processors. At the time, Intel used "A" to designate processors that overlapped an existing model. So there were cacheless Celeron 266/300 processors, and the 266/300 with 128K L2 cache had an "A" suffix. This occurred again with the Celeron 533, and once more with the Celeron 1000/1100. In a similar vein, the Klamath core was only 350 nm, while Deschutes was 250 nm. It was initially listed as 350/250 as there were certain Deschutes cores that were released as a pseudo-Klamath, for instance the P2 300 MHz SL2W8. There was not any way to actually tell (other that word of mouth) which P2 chips had the Klamath core and which had the Deschutes core. The chart has now been corrected by putting in a 250 nm 266-333 Deschutes line.



Introduction to the Processor Charts

Before we get to the actual charts, I want to take a minute to make clear how the charts are organized. Due to the number of features involved with modern processors, it can become difficult to determine which CPU is actually faster when comparing different models. For example, do you go with the 2250 MHz Athlon XP using the Thoroughbred core, which has a 2800+ model number, or should you go with the 2000 MHz Athlon XP that uses the Barton core, which also has a 2800+ model number? With Intel, it can be even more difficult: you have different cache sizes, bus speeds, and even architectures.

Since I figure a lot of people may actually find some sort of relative sorting useful, I have attempted to do this. How you wish to rate the various factors is of course a topic that could be debated ad nauseum . What I am presenting is by no means a definitive answer on which model is faster, but it should give a rough estimate. Below are the various families of processors and the weighting values that I used. I then took the weight factor and multiplied that by the actual clock speed to come up with a final performance ranking.

Since this is simply a rough estimate on my part, I am not including these ranking values in the actual charts, but they are how I sorted the data. Really, the reason for their existence was to get a sorting function that more or less agreed with my own personal opinion, so if I happen to have missed a processor, or if a new processor is released, I can simply add in the processor(s) to the chart and resort it. I'm open for suggestions on how these ratings might be improved, but please realize that there will never be a definitive formula, as relative performance depends on what specific code you are running.

If you don't like math or don't really care to know precisely how the charts are sorted, feel free to just skip to the next page. This is only for people that really want to know details. Also, the weighting factors are within each family - they have no correlation with other processor families. (So don't get upset that the Dothan has a 1.6 weighting and Athlon FX only has 1.15!) With that said, here are the weighting factors that I used.

Duron, Athlon, Athlon XP and Sempron

 64K L2 + 100 MHz bus = 0.7
 64K L2 + 133 MHz bus = 0.75
256K L2 + 100 MHz bus = 0.8
256K L2 + 133 MHz bus = 0.85
256K L2 + 166 MHz bus = 0.9
512K L2 + 133 MHz bus = 0.95
512K L2 + 166 MHz bus = 1.0
512K L2 + 200 MHz bus = 1.05

Athlon 64

 256K L2 + single-channel (Socket 754) = 0.9
 512K L2 + single-channel (Socket 754) = 0.95
1024K L2 + single-channel (Socket 754) = 1.0
 512K L2 + dual-channel   (Socket 939) = 1.04
1024K L2 + dual-channel   (Socket 940) = 1.11
1024K L2 + dual-channel   (Socket 939) = 1.15

Celeron 2 and Pentium 4

 128K L2 +  400 FSB =            0.6
 256K L2 +  400 FSB =            0.75
 256K L2 +  533 FSB =            0.80
 512K L2 +  400 FSB =            0.84
 512K L2 +  533 FSB =            0.91
1024K L2 +  533 FSB =            0.93
1024K L2 +  800 FSB =            0.98
 512K L2 +  800 FSB =            1.0
 512K L2 +  800 FSB + 2048K L3 = 1.15
2048K L2 + 1066 FSB =            1.2

Mobile Celeron, Mobile P4, Celeron M and Pentium M

 128K L2 + 400 FSB =             0.6
 256K L2 + 400 FSB =             0.75
 256K L2 + 533 FSB =             0.80
 512K L2 + 533 FSB + Northwood = 0.91
1024K L2 + 533 FSB + Prescott =  0.93
 512K L2 + 400 FSB + Dothan =    1.25
 512K L2 + 400 FSB + Banias =    1.3
1024K L2 + 400 FSB + Dothan =    1.35
1024K L2 + 400 FSB + Banias =    1.4
2048K L2 + 400 FSB =             1.5
2048K L2 + 533 FSB =             1.6


Duron and Athlon

I won't bother going into details of the early Athlon and Duron processors. They were great in their day, but they're getting to be rather long in the tooth. If there is a strong demand for more details on these processors, I will add them at a later point, but for now I simply recommend that you bite the bullet and upgrade.

For those interested in some historical information, here are a few more tidbits. The early Argon, Pluto and Orion Athlon chips had L2 cache chips contained within the Slot A cartridge. This cache could run at 1/2, 2/5, or 1/3 of the core clock speed - the faster the core, the lower the ratio. This led to situations where, for example, a 700 MHz Athlon with 350 MHz L2 would outperform the more expensive 750/300, or the 850/340 would beat the 900/300 due to the slower cache. Generally speaking, performance comparisons between the Athlon and Pentium III chips of the day were neck-and-neck affairs, with each side winning some benchmarks. Athlon had better x87 floating point performance, while Intel generally won out with features like MMX and SSE - at least in applications that were properly optimized.

The socket A processors switched to an integrated full-speed L2 cache, but the cache was half as large. The increased speed and reduced latencies, however, more than made up for the decrease in cache size. At this time, AMD was able to actually surpass Intel in raw performance for a period of time. The Athlon Thunderbird eventually reached 1.4 GHz, while the Pentium III tried for 1.13 GHz and failed. Later versions of the Pentium III dubbed Tualatin would eventually reach 1.4 GHz, but those only came after the introduction of the Pentium 4. Athlon during these times was the chip for gaming systems.

One other item worth noting is that all of the Athlon and Duron systems used the EV6 bus protocol acquired from DEC/Alpha. This was a double-pumped system bus, which improved performance relative to older buses like that used in P6 motherboards. The bus speeds listed in the charts are the base bus speed, which is then multiplied by the CPU multiplier to arrive at the final CPU speed. However, due to the double-pumping, many motherboards will list the bus speed as the doubled value. The actual performance increased gained from the doubling of the bandwidth is not as large as some might expect, but it probably accounts for somewhere between 5 to 15 percent of the total performance of the architecture, depending on the application.

The Athlon 64 and Opteron processors, meanwhile, have switched to a HyperTransport bus running at 800 MHz on the early chips and 1 GHz on socket 939 chips. The main benefit of the HT bus is that it doesn't require as many traces (wires), so it makes motherboard layouts somewhat easier to design. This also allows for multiple high-speed bus connections when used in SMP systems without resorting to designs with more layers.

Athlon XP and Sempron Processors

Athlon XP (Desktop) & Sempron (Desktop Value)
Athlon XP 1500+1333Palomino256133.310.0X
Athlon XP 1600+1400Palomino256133.310.5X
Athlon XP 1700+1467Palomino/TBA256133.311.0X
Athlon XP 1800+1533Palomino/TBA256133.311.5X
Sempron 2200+1500Thoroughbred B256166.79.0X
Athlon XP 1900+1600Palomino/TBA256133.312.0X
Athlon XP 2000+1667Palomino/TBA256133.312.5X
Athlon XP 2000+1667Thorton256133.312.5X
Athlon XP 2000+1533Barton512133.311.5X
Athlon XP 2100+1733Palomino/TBA256133.313.0X
Sempron 2400+1667Thoroughbred B256166.710.0X
Athlon XP 2200+1800TBA/TBB256133.313.5X
Athlon XP 2200+1800Thorton256133.313.5X
Sempron 2500+1750Thoroughbred B256166.710.5X
Athlon XP 2200+1667Barton512133.312.5X
Sempron 2600+1833Thoroughbred B256166.711.0X
Athlon XP 2400+2000Thoroughbred B256133.315.0X
Athlon XP 2400+2000Thorton256133.315.0X
Athlon XP 2400+1800Barton512133.313.5X
Athlon XP 2500+1867Barton512133.314.0X
Sempron 2800+2000Thoroughbred B256166.712.0X
Athlon XP 2600+2133Thoroughbred B256133.316.0X
Athlon XP 2500+1833Barton512166.711.0X
Athlon XP 2600+2083Thoroughbred B256166.712.5X
Athlon XP 2600+2000Barton512133.315.0X
Athlon XP 2600+1917Barton512166.711.5X
Athlon XP 2700+2167Thoroughbred B256166.713.0X
Athlon XP 2800+2250Thoroughbred B256166.713.5X
Athlon XP 2800+2083Barton512166.712.5X
Athlon XP 3000+2167Barton512166.713.0X
Athlon XP 3000+2100Barton51220010.5X
Athlon XP 3200+2200Barton51220011.0X
*** All system buses for Athlon XP, Sempron, Athlon 64, and Opteron are "double pumped", so their data rate is twice the bus speed. The multiplier is based off the listed speed.

Many of the processors listed in the charts were not commonly available, so they may not be well known. Some of these parts were shipped to OEMs who had special requirements, for example they might want to use cheaper PC2100 RAM with a Barton core. Some of the listed chips might also have been mobile parts which were mistakenly listed in the wrong table. However, the majority of these chips actually do exist in various PCs. Note also that some parts were likely to be seen more in overseas markets than in the US. If you are sure that a part is incorrect or doesn't exist, feel free to post a comment or send an email.

Athlon XP tweaked some of the finer details of the Athlon architecture to improve performance. Since XP was also going up against Pentium 4 instead of Pentium III, AMD (re)introduced model numbers and began their "clock speed isn't everything" campaign. According to AMD, the XP line was rated in terms of performance relative to the Thunderbird core, but few people actually believe that. It was almost surely market driven, as the Pentium 4 was scaling rapidly in clock speed, and the Athlon cores couldn't possibly keep up in raw MHz. And of course, AMD is correct that clock speed isn't everything - average instructions executed per clock (IPC) multiplied by clock speed would give you the real instruction throughput. Unfortunately, coming up with a precise measurement of IPC is virtually impossible - it varies depending on the code executed. Still, clock-for-clock, Athlons are definitely faster than P4 chips, and the PR ratings were relatively accurate, at least in the beginning.

As the "processor wars" continued, both companies released tweaked designs. Thoroughbred was a process shrink that brought higher clock speeds, but not as high as initially desired. A reworked Thoroughbred B core - which added an extra layer to the core, among other things - helped raise the clock limit a bit more and allowed Athlon XP to eventually reach 2250 MHz. Note that Thoroughbred B cores can often overclock to 2.3 to 2.4 GHz with sufficient cooling, while the A versions are often limited to ~2.1 GHz.

After Thoroughbred, AMD added more cache with the Barton core, and readjusted their model numbers accordingly, since more cache brought more performance. This was really where the model numbers started to become suspect, though, since Intel had also added more cache and increased bus speeds without "adjusting" any model numbers. The 2500+, 2600+ and 2800+ tended to struggle a bit in keeping up with their Intel counterparts, but the real problem came when Intel released the 200 MHz (800 FSB) "C" version of their Pentium 4. The jump to 3200+ with the 200 MHz FSB really only kept the Athlon XP competitive with the P4 2.8C in overall performance comparisons. Of course, here the model names were a stroke of genius, as many people simply assumed that a 3200+ really was the equivalent of the 3.2C.

Athlon XP-Mobile Processors

Athlon XP-M (Mobile)
Athlon XP-M 850850Palomino2561008.5X
Athlon XP-M 900900Palomino2561009.0X
Athlon XP-M 950950Palomino2561009.5X
Athlon XP-M 10001000Palomino25610010.0X
Athlon XP-M 11001100Palomino25610011.0X
Athlon XP-M 12001200Palomino25610012.0X
Athlon XP-M 1400+1200Thoroughbred256133.39.0X
Athlon XP-M 1500+1300Palomino25610013.0X
Athlon XP-M 1600+1400Palomino25610014.0X
Athlon XP-M 1500+1333Thoroughbred256133.310.0X
Athlon XP-M 1600+1400Thoroughbred256133.310.5X
Athlon XP-M 1700+1467Thoroughbred256133.311.0X
Athlon XP-M 1800+1533Thoroughbred256133.311.5X
Athlon XP-M 1900+1600Thoroughbred256133.312.0X
Athlon XP-M 1900+1467Barton512133.311.0X
Athlon XP-M 2000+1667Thoroughbred256133.312.5X
Athlon XP-M 2000+1533Barton512133.311.5X
Athlon XP-M 2100+1600Barton512133.312.0X
Athlon XP-M 2200+1800Thoroughbred256133.313.5X
Athlon XP-M 2200+1667Barton512133.312.5X
Athlon XP-M 2400+1800Barton512133.313.5X
Athlon XP-M 2500+1867Barton512133.314.0X
Athlon XP-M 2600+2000Barton512133.315.0X
Athlon XP-M 2800+2133Barton512133.316.0X
*** All system buses for Athlon XP, Sempron, Athlon 64, and Opteron are "double pumped", so their data rate is twice the bus speed. The multiplier is based off the listed speed.

There's not really a whole lot to say about the Mobile AMD processors. They are identical to their desktop counterparts, except they run on lower voltages and can run at reduced clock speeds to save power. Later on, the Athlon XP-M processors gained tremendous popularity due to their unlocked multipliers, which allowed them to overclock very well, as you could keep the bus speed close to the standard 200 MHz.

There are some OEM parts as well in the Mobile Athlon market which use a different socket than the standard 462 pin socket A. For the Athlon XP, there is a 563 pin version, and for Athlon 64 there is a 638 pin version. Further details and information on these parts is, at present, lacking.

Athlon 64 and Opteron Processors

Athlon 64 & "Performance" Sempron
Sempron 3100+1800Paris*2562009.0X754
Athlon 64 2800+1800Clawhammer5122009.0X754
Athlon 64 2800+1800Newcastle5122009.0X754
Athlon 64 3000+2000Clawhammer51220010.0X754
Athlon 64 3000+2000Newcastle51220010.0X754
Athlon 64 3200+2000Clawhammer102420010.0X754
Athlon 64 3200+2200Newcastle51220011.0X754
Athlon 64 3400+2200Clawhammer102420011.0X754
Athlon 64 3400+2400Newcastle51220012.0X754
Athlon 64 3500+2200Newcastle51220011.0X939
Athlon 64 3700+2400Clawhammer102420012.0X754
Athlon 64 FX-512200Sledgehammer102420011.0X940
Athlon 64 3700+2600Newcastle51220013.0X754
Athlon 64 3800+2400Newcastle51220012.0X939
Athlon 64 FX-532400Sledgehammer102420012.0X940
Athlon 64 FX-532400Sledgehammer102420012.0X939

Opteron**
Opteron x401400Sledgehammer10242007.0X
Opteron x421600Sledgehammer10242008.0X
Opteron x441800Sledgehammer10242009.0X
Opteron x462000Sledgehammer102420010.0X
Opteron x482200Sledgehammer102420011.0X
Opteron x502400Sledgehammer102420012.0X
* The Paris core does not support 64-bit computing. It is included with the Athlon 64 because of the socket and because the integrated memory controller puts it ahead of the Athlon XP in performance.
** All Opterons are available in 1xx, 2xx, and 8xx versions. x=1 is for single processor systems, x=2 is for up to dual processor systems, and x=8 is for up to octal processor systems.
*** All system buses for Athlon XP, Sempron, Athlon 64, and Opteron are "double pumped", so their data rate is twice the bus speed. The multiplier is based off the listed speed.

With the Athlon 64, as the name suggests AMD added support for 64-bit addresses and integers. This was done by widening their pathways and registers, but it wasn't a radical redesign of the core Athlon architecture. It has a pipeline that was increased to 12/17 stages, it got SSE2 support added, and the system bus was switched to a HyperTransport bus. The longer pipelines allow it to scale to somewhat higher clockspeeds, and the HyperTransport buses - there are three in the Opteron - allow for better SMP, but the core remains essentially the same. The addition of x86-64 support has garnered a lot of attention, but so far it's pretty much marketing hype. It has potential to improve performance once 64-bit support arrives, but that potential has not yet been realized in the mainstream market. The scientific and academic community, however, has greeted the introduction of affordable 64-bit processing with open arms. Most consumers, meanwhile, are stuck waiting for Windows XP-64.

The reason for the superior performance of the Athlon 64 - in current 32-bit code as well as in 64-bit code to a lesser extent - lies mostly with the integrated memory controller, which dramatically reduces memory latencies. In effect, it helps to turn system RAM into a very large but still relatively slow L3 cache. It also continues to reduce memory latencies as clock speeds increase. Memory latencies on the Athlon XP were roughly 81 ns at 3200+ speeds, and the P4 3.2C was around 77 ns latency. Meanwhile, the Athlon 64 3400+ comes in at an astonishingly low 48 ns. As mentioned before, those latency figures are getting somewhat close to L3 cache values - for example, the L3 cache in a 3.06 GHz Xeon is about 10 ns. It's still four times slower, but it's also twice as fast as RAM on a P4 system.

No better example of this can be found than the newly introduced Paris core, a.k.a. Sempron 3100+. At 1.8 GHz, it is substantially slower than the fastest Athlon XP in core speed, and yet in typical use it outperforms even the Athlon XP 3200+. This from a part that has half as much cache as the Barton and Newcastle cores! The only area where it fails to keep up is in tasks that generally fit within the L1/L2 cache of the CPU, i.e. certain encoding tasks. In that case, the lack of raw clockspeed is a hindrance.

Of course, reduced latency isn't the entire story of the Athlon 64. In 64-bit mode, the number of useable registers for both integer and floating point operations has been doubled. Depending on the code being run, this could potentially bring 10 to 20 percent more performance. Certain applications that make heavy use of 64-bit integers can also benefit from the added 64-bit support, for example cryptography and encoding tools. However, MMX and SSE have provided alternative means of improving 64-bit integer performance for many years now - they just require more programming effort to realize.



Celeron, Pentium II and III Processors

I'm going to forego listing the various models of these processors for the time being. If anyone has a real desire to see them listed, feel free to let me know. If you're running one of these processors still, I can feel for you. I still use one at work, and I only upgraded from my P3 back in March. Given the price of upgrading, though - $225 will get you a decent motherboard, 512 MB RAM, and an Athlon XP 2500+ - you really should upgrade if at all possible.

The old Pentium Pro P6 architecture was a 12-stage pipeline, more or less concluding with the Pentium III (more on that later). It had three specialized AGUs, two ALUs - one that handled simple instructions and a second one for the more complex instructions - and one FPU. The FPU also added support for SSE (which AMD lacked until the Athlon XP, but by then Intel was pushing the P4) and MMX - and they were generally faster on these instructions than AMD. That's not too surprising, considering that they created the technologies and AMD had to license them from Intel.

Intel could have certainly stuck with the design for a lot longer, as the last gasp Tualatin core offered pretty competitive performance clock for clock with the Athlon up to 1.4 GHz (the last Pentium III-S). In fact, the later 1.0A to 1.4A Celeron processors were very good overclocking chips, and a 1.1A running on a 133 MHz bus gave pretty decent performance. (I have just such a system powering my Home Theater PC.) Newer and better chipsets could have improved speed further, but Intel cut off the line and focused on pushing the Pentium 4 and NetBurst. This appears now to have been more of a marketing driven decision, although for the most part it can't be said that it was the worst idea ever.

Celeron 2 and Pentium 4 Processors

Pentium 4 and Celeron (Desktop)
P4 1.31300Willamette25610013.0X423 
C 1.71700Willamette12810017.0X478 
P4 1.41400Willamette25610014.0X423 
P4 1.41400Willamette25610014.0X478 
C 1.81800Willamette12810018.0X478 
P4 1.51500Willamette25610015.0X423 
P4 1.51500Willamette25610015.0X478 
C 2.02000Northwood12810020.0X478 
P4 1.61600Willamette25610016.0X423 
P4 1.61600Willamette25610016.0X478 
C 2.12100Northwood12810021.0X478 
P4 1.71700Willamette25610017.0X423 
P4 1.71700Willamette25610017.0X478 
C 2.22200Northwood12810022.0X478 
P4 1.61600Northwood51210016.0X478 
C 2.32300Northwood12810023.0X478 
C 2.42400Northwood12810024.0X478 
C 2.52500Northwood12810025.0X478 
P4 1.81800Northwood51210018.0X478 
C 2.62600Northwood12810026.0X478 
C 2.72700Northwood12810027.0X478 
C 2.82800Northwood12810028.0X478 
P4 2.02000Northwood51210020.0X478 
P4 2.22200Northwood51210022.0X478 
C D 3202400Prescott256133.318.0X478 
P4 2.42400Northwood51210024.0X478 
C D 3252533Prescott256133.319.0X478 
C D 325/J2533Prescott256133.319.0XT/775 
P4 2.26B2267Northwood512133.317.0X478 
C D 3302667Prescott256133.320.0X478 
C D 330/J2667Prescott256133.320.0XT/775 
P4 2.4B2400Northwood512133.318.0X478 
P4 2.62600Northwood51210026.0X478 
P4 2.4A*2400Prescott1024133.318.0X478 
C D 3352800Prescott256133.321.0X478 
C D 335/J2800Prescott256133.321.0XT/775 
P4 2.53B2533Northwood512133.319.0X478 
C D 3402933Prescott256133.322.0X478 
C D 340/J2933Prescott256133.322.0XT/775 
P4 2.4C2400Northwood51220012.0X478 
P4 2.66B2667Northwood512133.320.0X478 
P4 2.8B2800Northwood512133.321.0X478 
P4 2.6C2600Northwood51220013.0X478 
P4 2.8A*2800Prescott1024133.321.0X478 
P4 2.8E2800Prescott102420014.0X478 
P4 520/J2800Prescott102420014.0XT/775 
P4 3.06B HTT3067Northwood512133.323.0X478 
P4 2.8C2800Northwood51220014.0X478 
P4 3.0E3000Prescott102420015.0X478 
P4 530/J3000Prescott102420015.0XT/775 
P4 3.0C3000Northwood51220015.0X478 
P4 3.2E3200Prescott102420016.0X478 
P4 3.2C3200Northwood51220016.0X478 
P4 3.4E3400Prescott102420017.0X478 
P4 550/J3400Prescott102420017.0XT/775 
P4 3.4C3400Northwood51220017.0X478 
P4 560/J3600Prescott102420018.0XT/775 
P4EE 3.23200Gallatin51220016.0X4782048
P4 540/J3800Prescott102420019.0XT/775 
P4 570J3800Prescott102420019.0XT/775 
P4EE 3.43400Gallatin51220017.0X4782048
P4EE 3.43400Gallatin51220017.0XT/7752048
P4 580J4000Prescott102420020.0XT/775 
P4EE 3.463467Gallatin51226613.0XT/7752048
P4EE 3.733733Prescott204826614.0XT/775 
* Prescott 2.4A and 2.8A processors have HyperThreading Technology (HTT) disabled.
*** Front Side Bus (FSB) Speeds are "quad pumped", so Intel's FSB numbers are four times the actual bus speed on Pentium 4/Celeron, Pentium M/Celeron M, and Itanium processors. Multipliers are based off the base bus speed, not the FSB value.

NetBurst consists of a deep 20-stage pipeline coupled to an 8-stage fetch/decode unit. Due to the time spent fetching and decoding instructions, Intel created a new type of cache called a trace cache. This contained pre-decoded micro-ops, so for a large percentage of instructions, NetBurst runs as a 20-stage pipeline. Certain types of code run very well on NetBurst, while others - specifically branch-heavy code, like that seen in compilers and some games - do not. An incorrect branch prediction on P4 costs about twice as many lost cycles as an incorrect branch prediction on P3 or Athlon, which is why Intel added a more robust branch prediction unit.

The long pipeline allowed clockspeeds to scale very quickly with NetBurst. It was also a bandwidth hungry design, so increasing bus speeds combined with dual-channel memory eventually pushed the P4 beyond the reach of the Athlon XP. On the server front with the Xeon processors, the bandwidth was provided by adding L3 cache.

The Prescott further extended the NetBurst pipeline to 23 stages in addition to the 8 fetch/decode stages. For whatever reason, Intel generally describes the pipeline of the Prescott as 31 stages while only calling the earlier design a 20 stage pipeline. Besides the additional stages, Prescott doubled the L2 cache of the Northwood, added SSE3 support, and to the best of my knowledge contains deactivated x86-64 support - called EM64T by Intel and AMD64 by its creator AMD. Xeon versions of Prescott with the 64-bit support enabled are now shipping, and likely by the time XP-64 is released we will see 64-bit enabled desktop processors.

The Pentium 4 architecture also saw the introduction of Symmetric Multi-Threading (SMT) for Intel processors - they chose to call it Hyper Threading Technology (HTT). It appears to have been a part of the core from the very beginning, but Intel didn't enable the functionality until the P4 3.06 was launched, at which time it became available in the Xeon platforms as well. Later, it was enabled in all the 800 FSB "C" processors. Due to the length of the P4 pipeline, HTT allows the execution units to stay busy in the event of an incorrect branch prediction. The second thread can continue to run while the other thread recovers. In an ideal scenario, HTT could potentially increase performance by 20 or even 50 percent. In real world tests, however, rarely does it improve performance by more than 5 to 10 percent, and there are even times when it hurts performance.

With the switch to socket 775 LGA, Intel has also adopted model names. This likely has something to do with the recent difficulties Intel has encountered in scaling the NetBurst architecture to higher speeds. However, an even bigger problem is Intel's own Pentium M architecture (which is the next section). Anyway, we now have new model numbers which are supposed to reflect the overall capabilities of the chip, with higher numbers indicating more desirable chips. Comparing between families of chips should not be done based solely off the model number, however - there will certainly be instances where a 5xx chip offers better performance than a 7xx chip, and perhaps we'll also see some 3xx chips outperform their "superiors". For the time being, all of the 5xx chips are Prescott cores with 1 MB of L2 cache and an 800 MHz FSB. Future processors are also listed, and you can see where they will likely fall in the performance spectrum.

Mobile Celeron, Mobile P4, Celeron M and Pentium M Processors

Mobile Pentium/Celeron Chips**
MC 1.41400Willamette12810014.0X478M
MC 1.51500Willamette12810015.0X478M
MC 1.61600Willamette12810016.0X478M
MC 1.71700Willamette12810017.0X478M
MC 1.41400Northwood25610014.0X478M
MC 1.81800Willamette12810018.0X478M
MC 1.51500Northwood25610015.0X478M
MC 2.02000Willamette12810020.0X478M
MC 1.61600Northwood25610016.0X478M
CM 353/J900Dothan10241009.0X478M
MC 2.12100Willamette12810021.0X478M
CM 333900Banias10241009.0X478M
PM 900 (ULV)900Banias10241009.0X478M
MC 1.71700Northwood25610017.0X478M
MC 2.22200Willamette12810022.0X478M
MC 1.81800Northwood25610018.0X478M
CM 373J1000Dothan102410010.0X478M
MC 2.32300Willamette12810023.0X478M
PM 1.0 (ULV)1000Banias102410010.0X478M
MC 2.42400Willamette12810024.0X478M
MC 2.02000Northwood25610020.0X478M
PM 723/J (ULV)1000Dothan204810010.0X478M
PM 1.1 (LV)1100Banias102410011.0X478M
CM 350/J1300Dothan51210013.0X478M
MC 2.22200Northwood25610022.0X478M
PM 1.2 (LV)1200Banias102410012.0X478M
CM 3201300Banias51210013.0X478M
MC 2.42400Northwood25610024.0X478M
PM 1.31300Banias102410013.0X478M
PM 718 (LV)1300Banias102410013.0X478M
CM 3301400Banias51210014.0X478M
MC 2.52500Northwood25610025.0X478M
CM 360/J1400Dothan102410014.0X478M
MC 2.62600Northwood25610026.0X478M
CM 3401500Banias51210015.0X478M
PM 1.41400Banias102410014.0X478M
PM 713 (ULV)1400Banias102410014.0X478M
MC 2.72700Northwood25610027.0X478M
CM 370J1500Dothan102410015.0X478M
MC D 3252533Prescott256133.319.0XT/775
MC 2.82800Northwood25610028.0X478M
PM 1.51500Banias102410015.0X478M
PM 7051500Banias102410015.0X478M
PM 733/J (ULV)1400Dothan204810014.0X478M
PM 738/J (LV)1400Dothan204810014.0X478M
MC D 3302667Prescott256133.320.0XT/775
MC D 3352800Prescott256133.321.0XT/775
PM 1.61600Banias102410016.0X478M
PM 7151500Dothan204810015.0X478M
PM 758J (LV)1500Dothan204810015.0X478M
MC D 3402933Prescott256133.322.0XT/775
PM 1.71700Banias102410017.0X478M
MC D 3453066Prescott256133.323.0XT/775
MP4 2.82800Northwood512133.321.0X478M
MP4 2.8 HT2800Northwood512133.321.0X478M
PM 7351700Dothan204810017.0X478M
MC D 3503200Prescott256133.324.0XT/775
PM 730/J1600Dothan2048133.312.0X478M
MP4 5182800Prescott1024133.321.0X?478M
PM 7451800Dothan204810018.0X478M
PM 753J (ULV)1800Dothan204810018.0X478M
MP4 3.03000Northwood512133.322.5X478M
MP4 3.0 HT3000Northwood512133.322.5X478M
PM 740/J1733Dothan2048133.313.0X478M
MP4 5323067Prescott1024133.323.0X?478M
MP4 3.2 HT3200Northwood512133.324.0X478M
MP4 5383200Prescott1024133.324.0X?478M
PM 750/J1867Dothan2048133.314.0X478M
PM 7552000Dothan204810020.0X478M
PM 760/J2000Dothan2048133.315.0X478M
MP4 5523467Prescott1024133.326.0X?478M
MP4 5583600Prescott1024133.327.0X?478M
PM 770/J2133Dothan2048133.316.0X478M
PM 7652400Dothan204810024.0X478M
** There are several chips in the mobile sector. PM is for Pentium M, MP4 is the Mobile Pentium 4, CM is the Celeron M, and MC is the Mobile Celeron (P4 core).
*** Front Side Bus (FSB) Speeds are "quad pumped", so Intel's FSB numbers are four times the actual bus speed on Pentium 4/Celeron, Pentium M/Celeron M, and Itanium processors. Multipliers are based off the base bus speed, not the FSB value.

With the scaling clock speeds of the Pentium 4, not even the specially designed Mobile versions were really suited for use in laptops. (Of course, they were still used, but Intel had other plans.) Higher clockspeeds mean higher power requirements as well as increased heat output, which makes it very difficult to get increased battery life. In response to pressure from companies such as Transmeta, Intel commissioned a design team in Israel to put together a high-performance, low-power processor. The end result was the Pentium M. Where the push for high clockspeeds was the driving force behind the NetBurst design, Pentium M was targeted at reaching specific thermal requirements. While specific details are rather hard to come by, since Intel is trying to protect its lead in the Mobile space, the Pentium M appears to be a modified version of the venerable P6 architecture.

One of the improvements made to the P6 architecture was a large L2 cache, which could be powered and accessed in 32K sections. This allows large portions of the cache to be in a low-power "sleep" mode at any given time, so they get the performance benefit of a large cache without incurring as much of the usual power increase. The L1 cache was also doubled from the PIII to 32K+32K data and instruction. Floating point performance was increased with the doubling of MMX/SSE units - although this really only helped with SSE optimized code - and there were a few other architectural changes. Overall, the Pentium M is able to provide performance that's roughly the equivalent of an Athlon processor of the same clock speed, while requiring much less power. Battery life in laptops that use the Pentium M can often be 25 to 50 percent longer than equivalent laptops that use the Mobile Pentium 4, Mobile Celeron or Mobile Athlon XP chips.

The length of the above chart should be an indication of how big the mobile market has become. One of the reasons for this increase in size is likely the cut-throat conditions that exist in the desktop CPU market. Intel charges a hefty premium for most of their mobile processors since, generally speaking, anyone looking for a high-performance laptop has more money to burn. This is what I call the "mobility tax": you should only buy a laptop if portability is a primary concern; otherwise, your money will go a lot further with a desktop system. Certainly, business types that use computers for presentations and work on the road will be willing to pay this so-called tax.

With the release of the Dothan core Pentium M chips, Intel has also switched to model numbers. Here, however, there are many factors that influence the overall number. Ultra-Low Voltage processors running at lower clock speeds can end up rated higher than faster processors that require more power. This is supposed to reflect the relative desirability of certain features, as an increased battery life could be more important to some people than raw performance. Of course, Intel specifically states that the model numbers are not measures of performance, but only the technically literate are likely to know this. In their own words: "Intel processor numbers are not a measure of performance. Processor numbers differentiate features within each processor family, not across different processor families. See http://www.intel.com/products/processor_number for details."

Itanium and Itanium 2 Processors

Itanium (Server)
Itanium733Merced966611.0XPAC-4182048
Itanium733Merced966611.0XPAC-4184096
Itanium200Merced966612.0XPAC-4182048
Itanium200Merced966612.0XPAC-4184096
Itanium 2900McKinley2561009.0XPAC-6111536
Itanium 2900McKinley2561009.0XPAC-6113072
Itanium 21000McKinley25610010.0XPAC-6111536
Itanium 21000McKinley25610010.0XPAC-6113072
Itanium 2 LV1000Deerfield25610010.0XPAC-6111536
Itanium 2 LV1500Deerfield25610015.0XPAC-6111536
Itanium 21300Madison25610013.0XPAC-6113072
Itanium 21400Madison25610014.0XPAC-6114096
Itanium 21500Madison25610015.0XPAC-6116144
*** Front Side Bus (FSB) Speeds are "quad pumped", so Intel's FSB numbers are four times the actual bus speed on Pentium 4/Celeron, Pentium M/Celeron M, and Itanium processors. Multipliers are based off the base bus speed, not the FSB value.

Itanium processors are likely one of the least understood CPUs by most computer enthusiasts. Given that the cheapest models still cost over $1000, that's not really surprising. These processors are meant to target the high-end corporate world. They are often used in massively parallel processing situations, and Itaniums are capable of working in up to 512-way SMP systems. Of course, that doesn't really explain what the Itanium is.

For starters, Itanium is the way that Intel envisioned 64-bit computing, and it is built on a new instruction set dubbed IA-64 (Intel Architecture 64).. IA-64 was a clean break from x86 legacy code, and it was designed for the future. Really, its competition isn't the Xeon or Opteron CPUs, although some mistakenly compare it with these processors. Itanium is meant to compete in the high-end corporate 64-bit computing world, going up against servers based on the IBM Power4/5, HP PA-RISC, Sun UltraSparc-III, and DEC Alpha. If none of those names ring a bell, that's not very surprising. The quad-processor IBM Power4 system that was used as the main server at a company I worked for (and they had two units for redundancy) cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000, and the RAID-5 array that provided data storage was another $500,000. Perhaps more important than the hardware was the service contract with IBM that helped guarantee everything stayed running. The cost of the support contract with IBM (for dozens of such setups) was supposedly around $300 million dollars a year!

The Alpha technology, interestingly enough, was purchased by Compaq, who merged with HP, and HP worked with Intel on the design of the Itanium, with the intention of using it in place of PA-RISC once it was complete. I believe that some (all?) of the Alpha technology was later transferred to Intel, most likely for use in furthering the design of the Itanium processors. Compaq/HP has continued to support this chip for the past several years, but they haven't invested a lot of money into researching new iterations of the design. This makes sense, since HP is encouraging its enterprise customers to switch to their Itanium platforms. Recently, HP announced that the 1.3 GHz (I think that was the speed) EV7 version of the Alpha chip will be the last.

These systems are often referred to as "Big Tin" systems, and they're in a league of their own. They are frequently used in systems that process huge amounts of data - their 64-bit addressing allows the use of many gigabytes of physical RAM - and they are usually optimized for input/output functions. Of course, reliability and up-time are far more important than actual performance numbers, and often once a system has been built around a specific architecture, large corporations will stick with that hardware unless there is tremendous incentive to switch to something else. Switching usually consists of several years of coding, testing, debugging, and validation - a task not to be undertaken lightly, to be sure.

For the processor design, Intel continued with their radical departure from accepted norms. Instead of a RISC or CISC approach, Intel went back to a technology that had been used in old mainframes and other computers of yore, VLIW (Very Long Instruction Word). Itanium is not a strict VLIW machine, though, as VLIW has some well known drawbacks that Intel worked to overcome, and Intel chose to call their new approach EPIC, "Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computer". In contrast to designs such as the Xeon and Opteron, which can issue up to three instructions per cycle, the Itanium 2 (forget Itanium 1 for a minute) can issue eight instructions per clock, and unlike VLIW designs, future Itanium chips could further increase the issue width without needing to recompile the code. In theory, then, a 1 GHz Itanium chip could perform roughly as fast as a 2.66 GHz Xeon/Opteron, or the 1.5 GHz Itanium 2 would be roughly as fast as a 4 GHz Xeon/Opteron. That's just theoretical performance, of course, and the overall system design will play a large role in determining how much of the potential of any system is actually realized.

To help reach that potential, Itanium chips run off a 128-bit quad-pumped system bus, using standard SDRAM (for the time being). The lower clock speeds combined with the wider bus make the SDRAM less of an issue than with high-speed desktop systems. The initial Itanium design, Merced, had four integer units (ALUs), two floating point units (FPUs), and three branch units (BRUs), two SIMD (i.e. MMX/SSE) units, and two load/store units - also called address generation units (AGUs) in other CPUs. The modified McKinley (and later) designs have six ALUs, three BRUs, two FPUs, one SIMD, two load units, and two store units - sort of like having 4 AGUs, except that they're more specialized. In addition, the McKinley has roughly three times the cache bandwidth as Merced. Merced was also a six issue design with a deeper pipeline (10 stages) and less memory bandwidth - a rather problematic design. McKinley and later designs are eight issue designs with shorter pipelines (8 stages) and more memory bandwidth. While Merced rarely made full use of its six issue design, McKinley's enhancements help it come a lot closer to issuing the maximum eight instructions per clock.

That doesn't really tell a whole lot about the architecture, and I don't really want to go much deeper than that right now. Suffice it to say that Itanium depends in a large part on compiler technology in order to reach its potential, and Intel has apparently had more difficulties in that area than they initially anticipated, but lately this seems to be less of a problem. The initial Merced design was also flawed, if you couldn't tell from my above description of the architecture, but Itanium 2 goes a long way toward rectifying the problems.

Many have called the Itanium a failure - coming up with such names as Itanic to describe the processor - especially now that AMD has launched Opteron and Intel is following suit with x86-64 support. However, they're really very different goals, and in the target market segment, Itanium is still managing to compete. Needless to say, it helps that Intel has very deep pockets thanks to the income generated from their desktop and mobile processor divisions. Itanium may or may not live in the long term, but short term Intel has plans to keep it around at least another three or four years, and they will likely keep it around longer to support existing clients. Honestly, though, I doubt any of us will ever be running an IA64 processor on our desktop systems.



Conclusion

Obviously, that's only a brief glimpse at the processor histories of AMD and Intel, with a vague picture of the future. Dual core designs should start appearing within the next year, and rumors of quad core processors are also floating around the web. At some point, we will likely reach the limits of current manufacturing technologies, but that day is still a long ways off. AMD and Intel both have technologies in development that should carry us past 45 nm process technologies, and probably down to single digits in our lifetime. That's assuming we don't get quantum computers first, that make all of the current binary systems seem quaint by comparison.

The amount of processing power sitting in front of you right now was beyond comprehension a couple decades ago. Even the "average" computers of today would seem amazing to people even one decade in the past. Ten years ago, 3D was only dreamt about, and professional 3D accelerators cost thousands of dollars while doing far less that a "cheap" GeForce 3 or Radeon 8500. Ten years ago, 32-bit processors were still looking for a real operating system, and 64-bit was only used by governments and research centers. Ten years ago, a 100 MHz processor was as good as it got. Ten years ago, few people had ever used a networked computer at home, and 28.8 modems were amazingly fast. Here's hoping the gurus at AMD, Intel, and other companies can continue to amaze us for another ten years!

Stay tuned for more insider articles from Jarred, including a much anticipated GPU cheat sheet as well!

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